Soon, many parents will be experiencing more rainy days than sunny days. With the change of the seasons comes a new challenge for parents of toddlers and preschoolers: How to occupy those bundles of energy? Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Too wet to go out. And too cold to play ball. So we sat in the house. We did nothing at all.” Let me step in on your mat and show you six games that I know. Don’t worry. These are actually good games.
Not only is playing in a sandbox fun, but it is an important part of sensory play for your toddler and preschooler. On the days where it is impractical to take your wee one to the park, allowing them to eat all the sand, an excellent alternative is to fill a cardboard box, your no-longer-used plastic baby bathtub, or plastic storage bin with uncooked rice. For added fun, you can color the rice. When you want to change the sensory experiences, you can swap out the rice for cornmeal, oatmeal, pasta, dried beans, birdseed, shredded paper, salt, foam packing peanuts, puffed wheat, and more. Provide them with tools, such as funnels, toy cars, spoons, spatulas, and plastic cups. You may want to cover the floor with a sheet or tablecloth for easy cleanup.
Baseball will help your toddler and preschooler develop their eye-to-hand coordination. Baseball in the house, you say? Are you daft? Have no fear! Inflate a balloon and grab an empty gift-wrap tube, and spend hours taking turns tossing and hitting the balloon. You may also want to set some bases around the house, giving your little one the opportunity to also run around.
Knocking things over is also an important part of child development. Think of it as a way of learning about gravity. Creating an indoor bowling alley will help both save your belongings from damage and allow your precious bundle of energy to have a safe way of being destructive. All you need are toilet paper or paper towel rolls, or empty plastic bottles, and a plastic or tennis ball, and you’re set. To add a level of difficulty, you can refill the bottles with water. To make it even more interesting, add food color to the water, and have fun with indoor rainbow bowling.
Forts and Cardboard Houses
Your child’s imagination is the limit for this activity. Whether you are rearranging chairs, couches, and coffee tables to cover with sheets and blankets, or cutting, taping, and painting cardboard boxes to create the perfect house, allowing your child to participate in the process will help burn energy. Who knows, you may get lucky. Once finished, they may be so tired that they take a nap inside of their creation.
Indoor Treasure Hunt
This activity will take a little bit more time to prep. As there is a good chance that your toddler or preschooler isn’t reading, you’ll need to make picture clues. The picture should be of the room in which they can find the next clue. So that your wee ones don’t get bored, you may want to include a small prize with each clue that leads to the big prize. You may also want to make a theme for the treasure hunt. You could always do a theme from their favorite movie or television show. Or, you can make the theme an activity, such as each small clue reward consists of stickers, scissors, crayons, etc., with the final prize being a coloring book and craft paper. Then, once the hunt is over, they can sit down for some quiet – yes, I’m optimistic – art time.
Toddlers and preschoolers love to explore new textures not only with their hands, but also their feet. It may be a good idea to keep a stock of contact paper in your house. On those rambunctious days, tape contact paper, sticky side up, down the hallway or in an area in their play area. Remove the backing. You will be amazed at how long they will run, stomp, jump, dance, or just stand on that contact paper, especially as the removal of their feet is accompanied by excellent sound effects.
And, if all else fails, you could always read them The Cat in the Hat.